Houbara Conservation Fund rolls out alternative classroom programme for UAE students

ABU DHABI, 10th February, 2019 (WAM) — The International Fund for Houbara Conservation, IFHC, has rolled out an alternative classroom programme to engage UAE school students in the importance of conserving and protecting the vulnerable bustard, which is a mainstay of UAE wildlife.

IFHC is the global leader in proactive species conservation which oversees one of the world’s largest multi-region conservation projects to increase wild populations of the houbara species in its natural habitats.

After IFHC’s education programme piloted in seven Abu Dhabi schools last year, the implementation of the alternative classroom programme, which sees IFHC working in co-operation with the Ministry of Education, MoE, and Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, ADEK, has begun at Abu Dhabi’s Al Huiteen School in Liwa, where students range from kindergarten to Grade 12.

A cornerstone of IFHC’s wider Houbara Model National Programme, the alternative classroom programme will ultimately engage every student in UAE classrooms. Before its countrywide roll-out, Al Huiteen school has erected an outdoor houbara-themed tent for its second term, where activities from IFHC’s educational Houbara handbook are being taught. Students from different grade levels are already collaborating to build a real-life houbara habitat.

IFHC’s alternative classroom implementation follows years of specialist research which suggests that simple adjustments to classroom layouts can have a radical impact on students’ performance and their interest in topics taught.

“Inquiry-based learning within an alternative classroom setting puts students more in control and increases their capacity to learn from their own actions, decisions and choices,” explained IFHC’s Managing Director, Majid Ali Al Mansouri.

“With our new initiatives we are hoping to engage and motivate students across the Emirates to discover the importance of the houbara bustard. Our education programme is designed to highlight the need to conserve and protect the species, and its surroundings, to positively impact the country’s wildlife and environmental heritage. We have invested considerable resources in developing education tools to support the Houbara Model National Programme and we plan to further invest in strategically displaying live houbaras because it’s hard for the students to find and come into contact with the species,” he added.

IFHC’s educational programme assets include introductory videos which feed into the houbara handbook, a dedicated website and a tracking-themed gamification element to support the learning experience, while subjects such as science, maths, geography and social studies will be taught using tailored teaching materials across grade levels. The teaching materials and online resources, which are available to all UAE-based teachers, have been customised to reference the houbara species’ relevance to UAE culture and heritage.

“Al Huiteen school has nominated approximately 20 students from various grades to work as Houbara Ambassadors. These student leaders will work with their peers from junior years to add further weight to the collaborations between students,” added Al Mansouri.

As part of the alternative classroom programme, an IFHC field researcher from the Fund’s National Search and Rescue Centre has engaged Al Huiteen students in an activity which allows them to get to know how field researchers work and how to use tracking equipment.

The Houbara Model National Programme follows a collaboration between the MoE and IFHC aimed at ensuring every student in the UAE is taught about conservation through the flagship houbara species. The roll-out of the alternative classroom represents the first stage of IFHC’s education implementation strategy in 2019.

The MoE’s support has helped ensure that IFHC’s education initiatives are keenly aligned to the values of Vision 2021 National Agenda, and to the UAE Vision 2021, Al Mansouri concluded.

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